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Arizona Earthquakes 2013: Monitoring, Outreach & Preparedness

Article Author(s): 

Michael Conway
Jeri Young

Overview. During 2013, the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) cataloged over 100 Arizona earthquakes, participated in multiple outreach activities, and acted as resource experts for the seismic source characterization project for the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. With funding from FEMA, AZGS also completed its first online hazards mapping service, Natural Hazards in Arizona. The hazard viewer contains locations of current and past earthquakes, active faults, earth fissures and fire hazard maps. It can be viewed at:

The largest quake recorded in the state was an Md = 3.5 which occurred near the North Rim Lodge at Grand Canyon. This area has been the site of several earthquake swarms, some of which include several quakes in the 3.0 range. Several active faults have been mapped in the general area of the swarms, including the West Kaibab fault, Sinyala and others.

Figure 1. Great Arizona ShakeOut promotional cartoon strip 2013 targeting K-12 community.

Great Arizona Shakeout 2013. Earthquakes happen in Arizona, as well as in the neighboring states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Sonora and Baja California, Mexico. To prepare for earthquake events, states of the Western U.S. participate in annual ShakeOut events, teaching people to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” during the ground shaking that accompanies a large earthquake. In October 2012, and working with our partners at the Arizona Division of Emergency Management, County Emergency Management offices and members of the health and education communities, the Arizona Geological Survey initiated the first state-wide Great Arizona Shakeout.

ShakeOut 2013. On October 17th 2013, at 10:17 a.m., more than 116,400 Arizonans participated in the Great Arizona ShakeOut; across the US and elsewhere more than 18.8 million people participated.  We exceeded 2012 ShakeOut participation by ~ 54,000 participants, resulting in 86% growth in just our second statewide exercise.   

More than 84,000 K-12 students and faculty in Arizona dropped, covered and held on as part of the drill, reflecting a concerted effort to reach the education community (Fig. 1). Involvement in Yuma County surpassed that of other counties, but Maricopa and Coconino Counties are closing fast (Fig. 2). Enrollment by county is summarized in Table 1.

                Figure 2. Enrollment by County for those counties with greater than 100 participants in 2013. What went well 

  • We build on our ShakeOut network by engaging dozens of ShakeOut partners & stakeholders from the emergency management community, K-12 education, universities, preparedness groups, tribal communities, and local, state, and federal authorities;
  • Arizona ShakeOut 2013 participation nearly doubled in 2013;
  • Media coverage increased substantially from last year;
  • We improved coordination with the Arizona Department of Education.


  • We are still struggling to reach rural communities;
  • Building a larger network of partners and stakeholders.

Media Reports of ShakeOut. Great Arizona ShakeOut was reported in newspapers, university media outlets, radio, TV and social media.  A conservative estimate puts the number of media alerts at about 48; more than double that of ShakeOut 2012. Media outlets in Yuma, Prescott, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tempe, Willcox, Ahwatukee, NAU News, ASU News, White Mountains, and Tucson, among others participated. 

Table 1 includes the numbers of participants from all 15 counties and the percent change in participation from 2012 to 2013.

Table 1.  Great Arizona ShakeOut Participant Numbers for 2013 and 2012 and percent change from 2012 to 2013. A negative value preceding the % change value indicates a decrease in participation from 2012 to 2013. 




% Change

























   La Paz


























   Santa Cruz












Note: Enrollment decreased in 2013 in Cochise, Gila and Pinal Counties and we made few inroads in Graham, Greenlee and Santa Cruz Counties.

ShakeOut 2014Planning for 2014 will start in early 2014. Our chief goal will be to increase the number of K-12 student participants and to further engage the public, business community, tribal communities, and local, state and federal government employees.

Some ideas for improving ShakeOut 2014 are bulleted here. Do you have other ideas? Please send them along and we’ll add them to the list. 

  • Build and broadcast a digital scrapbook of 2013 ShakeOut participants to showcase online (This is one we can work on now, if you have images to share, please send them on.);
  • Develop public service announcements (PSA) to disseminate online and to radio/TV media;
  • Host a YouTube video contest for best promotional ShakeOut videos (The Washington Elementary School District in Glendale produced a marvelous ShakeOut video this year.);
  • Engage radio and TV media to broadcast a simulated earthquake alert on ShakeOut day;
  • Once again establish which schools, business, or other entities are willing to allow news media filming of the ShakeOut exercise. This approach proved very successful this year.
  • Canvas select participants for their experiences – What went well? What could be improved?
  • Reach out to other ShakeOut organizers in western U.S. for ideas for enhancing the event.
  • Engage science educators to use ShakeOut to promote earth science literacy.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS - ShakeOut 2013 Partners & Stakeholders. We thank all of you who promoted, enrolled and participated in ShakeOut 2013. This simple “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” exercise can reduce injuries and save lives, and you all played a role in making Arizonans more earthquake savvy and safe.

The following contributed mightily to ShakeOut 2013 success: Arizona Division of Emergency Management, Arizona County Emergency Manager offices, the Arizona branch of the American Red Cross, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), EarthScope, and those in municipal emergency management offices, State agencies, and select members of K-12 community.


Chief, Geologic Extension Service
AZ Geological Survey

Research Geologist
Arizona Geological Survey


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